How To Change Your World

“No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.”
— Victor Hugo

The guys at Kodak knew they had a problem. They were about to introduce a revolutionary new slide projector. Instead of a linear format, theirs had a round configuration. They thought they might call it the “wheel,” even though it sounded antiquated. The wheel was innovative for its time, but it came a long time before sliced bread and cat’s pajamas.

Enter hotshot ad wizard Don Draper. He decided it wasn’t a wheel, it was a carousel. It turned like a wheel, but took you back to your childhood—nostalgia!—to a place we all wish we could go back to. Of course, we can’t go back in time … unless we buy a Kodak Carousel slide projector! 

In terms of the feelings evoked by the two words, carousel is much better than wheel.

You don’t have to be an advertising executive to understand and leverage the power of words. Ordinary people can do it too, and when they do it successfully they may even become extraordinary. 

Here are some people from humble beginnings who led extraordinary lives: Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. What do they all have in common? All have had a tremendous influence on the world and have brought about great change in the face of apathy or opposition. And they did it not with great armies or political power but with words. Words formed into ideas shaped into stories.

Movements have been started with words. Nations have been declared into existence. Some might say everything was started with words: “In the beginning was the Word.” 

Words are not simply labels for things, they are containers for meaning. The meaning you create depends on your choice of words and how you interpret them. Are you choosing words that serve you well? Or do the words in your head hold you back?

Because beliefs are expressed in words, the words you choose also shape your beliefs. Beliefs—which are neither right nor wrong—are notions that you hold to be true. They are in essence closely held opinions that you have formed based on your interpretations and misinterpretations of your experiences. Your beliefs are the filter through which you give meaning to events. If you’re like most people, you tend to look for evidence that supports your beliefs—we call this confirmation bias—which then become stronger over time.

Your inner story is also expressed in words, which were probably not well chosen. Remember, you wrote this story when you were a child, with a very limited vocabulary and an even more limited understanding of the world. In addition, you developed a set of beliefs based on that false narrative created by your child self. 

Don’t you wish you could go back and write your inner story all over again, but with better words? 

Of course you can’t go back in time, but you can rewrite your inner story. You can use better words, based on more useful interpretations of your experiences, which will then support more powerful beliefs. This revised story and the beliefs that you draw from it will be the foundation for a life surpassing all of your previous expectations. Contact me to find out exactly how this works! 

Are You An Impostor?

What do Abba, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Bob Marley, Simon and Garfunkle, and Diana Ross all have in common? Aside from being very successful musical acts, they all have at least one “Greatest Hits” album. Almost every great band has a Greatest Hits album. But have you ever seen a “Worst Flops” album?

It isn’t just musical acts who put their greatest hits front and center and ignore their lesser efforts. We all do it. Our resume or CV contains our professional greatest hits, but we do not mention the failures, missteps, and embarrassments we’ve suffered. 

Everyone else’s CV does the same. They show their best and hide their worst. We don’t see their flaws because they are hidden. And while we may try not to show others our own shortcomings, we are painfully aware of them. We are terrified that others might see our faults anyway, and expose us as a fraud. This fear of being found unqualified for (and undeserving of) our role is called impostor syndrome, and it can be debilitating. 

This sets us up for a lifelong struggle. We see our worst self, but we see the best of everyone else. It’s like looking at life through a distorted lens. We make ourselves small—we belittle, diminish, and disparage ourselves—while making others bigger than they are. How messed up is that? Shouldn’t we be building ourselves up?

At the logical level we know that other people have flaws they don’t want us to see. We may even understand that other people don’t see some of our inadequacies that we are trying to keep under wraps. But understanding this is not enough to overcome our fears. Mr Spock (of Star Trek fame) may be able to tame his emotions with logic, but the rest of us are too human to do this—our emotions rule.

Impostor syndrome is especially common among those who are promoted into a new role at work. They won the promotion because they excelled in their previous role, but their new role requires capabilities they have not yet mastered. Some people overcome this problem with time. They gain the knowledge, skills, and experience required, and as a result become more confident. They grow into their role. They may have some doubts on occasion, but they are manageable.

Others are not so fortunate. The doubts are overwhelming. They feel inadequate not only in their new role, but in other areas of their life. The feeling that I’m not good enough is pervasive. Affirmations, visualization, and waiting will not help. They are operating under a false narrative, and they need to attack the problem at the roots by rewriting their inner story.   

If your inner story supports maladaptive beliefs such as I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, I don’t deserve it, then it will not support the new, empowering beliefs you wish to install. But you can change your inner story and create the life you want. The most important story you will ever tell is the story you tell yourself.